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Victoria passes missing middle housing policy to next council

Two-part public hearing ran for more than 12 hours
The yellow zones currently only allow for single-family dwellings. The missing middle initiative looks to change that. The proposal will now go before the next mayor and council. (Courtesy of the City of Victoria)

The NFL season kicked off on Thursday, but the Rams and Bills weren’t the only ones doing the punting.

After three years and months of deliberation, Victoria referred its missing middle initiative to a committee meeting that will take place after the Oct. 15 election.

The city’s housing analysis found it’s on track for expanding several kinds of needed housing, but is far behind on building types that can suit growing families and others.

The missing middle proposal would amend zoning on lots that currently only allow single-family homes to also permit corner townhomes, houseplexes and some infill housing to be built. The proposal has specific guidelines – aiming to make projects fit neighbourhoods, promote livability and ensure accessibility – that builders must follow.

The years-long process culminated in a two-part public hearing that lasted over 12 hours. Supporters begged for the change after seeing friends and family leave the city, or said they personally struggled to find stable accommodations in the precarious local market. Opponents argued that the housing styles would change neighbourhoods too drastically, that the policy wasn’t ready or that it’s unneeded.

If passed, the policy will have an 18-month review that will include a new independent financial analysis and will consider adding more affordability requirements. Council will also receive a brief update after six months.

After hearing from the public, some minor revisions were accepted Thursday. The heights for houseplexes, with flat or peaked roof styles, were reduced by one metre following an amendment by Coun. Ben Isitt, who said massing was a major sticking point for residents in opposition.

Isitt followed up with a motion to refer the policy to staff, which was amended by Mayor Lisa Helps to instead have it go to the new council, and to consider expected provincial legislation on boosting housing supply.

Helps and Couns. Marianne Alto, Sarah Potts and Jeremy Loveday opposed the referral. They struggled with any further delays just prolonging the status quo, especially after already conceding to their colleagues’ revisions in hopes the initiative would pass on a narrow margin. Other councillors said the policy needed further tweaks or could be replaced with other housing actions.

Helps said unlike 30 years ago, the city has left homeownership “literally unimaginable” for younger generations.

“The prospect of raising a family with good job, in a good neighbourhood, is not feasible with our current land use policies.”

She added that zoning is the city’s most critical, and local, tool in creating “housing that our city is going to need for this generation and for the next generations.”

Staff said the initiative is key to ensuring families have a place in the city as the last three decades have seen a net drop in school children and adults aged 30 to 50, but it also said the ground-oriented homes could help the growing senior cohort age in place.

Victoria also positioned the policy as just one piece of a more than 40-part housing strategy focused on the entire continuum of living spaces.

“What’s proposed through the missing middle housing initiative is not a silver bullet for the affordability crisis, but by addressing a critical gap in housing choice and availability, it does play an important role in helping our overall housing system and our local economy function well,” Malcolm MacLean, a community planner with the city, said in August.

READ: Public to again give opinions on Victoria’s missing middle housing Thursday Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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